(Death of minor character mentioned) NC-17
New Members Joining
Xander walked off the plane, smiling at his children pressed against the glass in the terminal. He took his mate's hand, walking inside, letting Giles carry the baby since he had won the coin toss. "Hi," he said, getting down on one knee to hug them all. "What's going on?" he asked, seeing the small sniffles. "What's up?"
Alex rubbed her forehead. "Not here, guys. We'll tell you at home." She nodded at Derek, taking his bag and walking him a little ways away.
Derek came back with a small groan. He mouthed the words as he picked up Precious. "Dominic had a stroke."
Xander closed his eyes, hugging his children tighter to him. "We'll figure it out at home," he promised the kids. "Now, why don't we take the baby home? He's not seen too much of it yet." He let his husband help him up, accepting his son. "How are we getting home?" he asked Alex.
"Well, the kids, including the youngest one, and I are taking the van. Jonathan drove your car over to take you two and one other responsible adult back with you."
Oz nodded, taking his bag from the unloader's hand. "Okay. Xander, let's go hear your engine purr. Who's riding with us?" All the kid's hands shot up. "That wouldn't be fair, guys, we can only fit three of you in the car." All the kids but Xandra pouted at him. "We'll give you rides around the island tomorrow." He rubbed each of their heads as he walked through them. "Last one in the van gets the burned brownie," he said, making them all turn and run.
Xander pouted at him but his smile kept poking through. "I don't make burned ones," he said. His mate nipped his lower lip so he hugged him. "Good plan, dad." They followed their children home.
Derek sighed as the van was cut off from the ferry, even though there was room. "Too much weight," he muttered. "It's not that heavy."
Oz pulled out their lucky token. "Wondering?"
"No," Xander said firmly. "Not at all. That can't be this." He watched the ferry drift back to dock. "Huh?" The attendants all went rushing toward the gates, letting them up so the cars could get off. Xander rolled down his window, listening to the horn blowing. "Leak?" he asked, looking in the mirror.
Derek nodded, holding out a hand. "Let me see it please, Oz." The token was put into his hand so he could examine it. "A most unusual design."
Xander started to rub his forehead and stomach. "Um, dad, don't look that closely at it," he moaned. Oz leaned over to comfort him. "Started when he took it," he gasped, just getting the door open before throwing up.
Derek handed it back, grimacing. "I'd say it doesn't want to be known about." He leaned forward, patting his son's back. "You'll be fine soon," he whispered. "I'm sorry."
Alex walked back, looking at her step-son. "I guess the token did it?" she asked dryly.
"Both of them," Oz told her, putting it back in his pocket.
Derek smiled at his mother as she walked into the house, kissing her cheek as soon as she made it free of the obstacle course of the children. "Mother," he said, hugging her tightly. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, son, how are you?" She looked down at the little person tugging on the bottom of her shirt. "Yes, Serena?"
"Baby nap," she said. "He pretty." The other kids nodded.
"Yes, dear, I know. I've seen him." She smiled as her grandson walked down, absently scratching his chest. "Is everything all right, Xander?" He nodded, hugging her.
"Fine. Just a little strange feeling. He only fed from one side so it's like I'm lopsided and it feels funny." He handed Derek a sheaf of papers. "Yours, faxed in from London." He shrugged at the dirty look. "Hey, I'm not the one that said that you overfocused on your family." He headed for the kitchen. "Isn't it snack time?" The kids yelled and followed him, well actually led him after a few steps.
"Son, what's going on?" Barbara asked quietly, smoothing her white hair behind her ears.
"Dominic had a stroke and died the same day we came back. The children still don't know." He led her into the living room. "We're dealing with it the best we can." He sat down beside her, curling up against the arm to face her. "It's been a most stressful week, mother, and we've all been dealing the best we could."
She nodded, patting his knee. "Mother's here now dear, let me do some of the worrying for you about your family. I'll even help you find a new butler." He smiled, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
"Hey, Grandma," Oz said as he walked in, carrying a tray. "Giles made tea 'cause he found my baby doing it and almost passed out at the heresy." He put the tray down on the coffee table, smiling at her. "Thank God you're here," he said, falling into her arms to hug her. "Derek keeps trying to look at our lucky token and it's driving us insane. Xander's been sick every time he touches it."
She patted his back, holding in the laughter by true force of will. "There, there, Oz, Grandmother's here and I'll fix my son and make him leave you alone so you can cuddle." She let him stand back up, patting the side of his face. "I've straightened out the mess Willy keeps making in London, I can do it here. After all, I'm sure my son and all of you aren't *that* bad on the staff."
Derek laughed. "Mother, we're absolute angels to the staff." He smiled at his son-in-law. "And your acting skills needs work." He waved, prompting Oz to do the same and leave. "They're horrible today," he said, smiling at her. "Thank you for coming a day early."
"Son, you needed me so I came. It's that simple." She picked up one of the cups of tea, sipping delicately.
Xander looked at the five older kids, all lined up on the couch looking very seriously at him. "Guys, I need to talk to you. It's very important that we have this talk and that you guys listen." He looked in each of their eyes. "Guys, something bad happened to Dominic and he won't be coming back."
"Why?" Brandon asked. "He okay?"
"No, baby, he's not. He was hurt very badly and he won't be coming back."
"Accident? Xandra asked. "I had those."
Xander shook his head. "No, sweetie, he had a medical problem, one with his head. It hurt him really badly then something in it snapped. Like a rubber band does when it breaks." They all looked confused so he looked around at their art projects, picking up a rubber band. "See, this was in his mind, well something that looked a lot like this, and then it stretched." He stretched it. "It's supposed to stretch but his stretched too far," he worked to break it, grunting when it didn't work. "See, not everyone's snaps, but in a select few..." it snapped in his fingers, making him wince and suck on the injured finger, "it breaks."
Timothy started to cry. "He no 'kay?"
Xander opened his arms, letting him crawl into them. "No, sweetie, he's not okay. See, when the rubber band snapped, he wasn't somewhere that they could take care of him fast enough." The others started to cry so he let them come hug him too. "Guys, I'm sorry but he's not coming back. Not ever because he can't." He squeezed them as well as he could. "I'm really sorry, guys, but we have someone that will be taking his place temporarily." The kids all looked up at him, blinking their big, wet eyes and shaking their heads. "I know you don't want to have someone take his place, but we need someone to run the house so we can all take care of you guys and work and stuff." They all shook their heads again. "I know it hurts but it's necessary. We need someone to fill in."
Oz walked in, getting on the floor with them. "Guys, I know this is hard, but we'd like for you to give him the same attitudes that you gave Dominic, the same not-be-mean to him stuff." He accepted Xandra and Brandon into his lap. "I know, we're sad too, but we can't make this go away."
"Me have rubber band?" Timmy asked, holding his head.
"No, not until you're an adult. But not everyone has one that can snap. That only happens sometimes. And most of the time it can be taken care of. You don't need to worry about grandpa's rubber band or grandma's, or even ours, because ours are fine. Dominic's had just been stretched too often."
Oz looked at his husband. "Rubber bands?"
"Stroke to a four year old?" Xander countered.
"I can move on that principle." He looked down at the kids. "Now I know that you guys are upset but would you be willing to meet the new guy now instead of before supper? I was just helping him put together a snack tray for you five." They all gave him big puppy eyes. "Okay, um, Phelps?"
A youngish man, about forty, dark brown hair, almost six feet tall, with that scary calm look on his face walked in carrying the snack tray. Xander looked at Oz then down at the kids. His husband nodded so he gave the kids one last squeeze, letting them look up at this new person. "Xander," he said, holding out a hand. "These are our children. There's a quad, a single, and the baby." He patted Xandra's head as she wormed her way back into his lap. "Guys, he made you a snack, why don't you thank him and go eat."
"Don't push them," Phelps said, his voice high and squeaky. "It will take them a while to accept me."
Buffy walked in, looking at the new person then at the couple on the floor. "Where's Giles?" she asked calmly. Xander nodded toward the office. "Thanks. Need to talk to you later." She walked out, wandering toward the office, remembering to knock first since she'd seen Philip going that way too. "Um," she said, walking in, waiting until the door was closed behind her, "why is there a minor demon serving the kids snacks?" Barbara looked at her, one eyebrow arching up. "Don't give me that look, he is. And he looks like a serial killer." She leaned against the doorframe, letting Nick, who she heard stomping down the hall, in.
"Guys, this is very strange. I can't get into the room where Xander and the kids are." Buffy waved at him in a grand manner. "What?" he said slowly.
Derek shook his head, pushing the intercom button. "Xander, may I speak with you?" The phone beeped so he picked it up. "Ah, son, don't eat the food. No, Buffy said he's a minor demon."
Giles groaned as he stood up. "Looks like it's back to work again." He walked past them, heading out the door.
Nick smiled. "Ruling houses always have the least amount of work. It's a fundamental rule." Derek frowned at him so he smiled harder. "It is. That's why William used to travel so much. Just think, in two years, you'll be traveling too, Derek. Bugging the other houses. Popping in unannounced..." He stopped when the older man threw a paperweight at his head. "Mean," he accused. "I'll sick Precious on you, make her defend me."
"Nah," Buffy said, shaking her head, "he's counter with a Philip move and she'd just curl up to be read to." They laughed at the renewed glaring, complete with small growls.
"Out, both of you. Bring Phelps in to see me." He waited until it was just he and his mother. "See what I put up with?" She laughed lightly, shaking her head. "Please find me someone decent, mother, someone I can work with, someone that the children will like?"
She held her hand out for the phone, dialing her home number when the instrument was turned toward her. "Willy, put the butler on please." She smiled. "Ah, Reginald. No, we seem to have a situation here in San Francisco." There was a short pause. "Yes, but their replacement is of an unsavory nature and is only temporary. Some of the house's members have objected to him, calling him scary even." She smiled, snapping her fingers for a pad of paper and a pen, which her son handed her. "Thank you dear," she said as she wrote. "Don't let Willy bully you too much, Reginald, he's not worth the ulcer you'll get holding it in." She hung up. "He said to try in a couple of hours, it's one of his cousins that emigrated. He wants to call him first."
"Does he have a name?"
"Adam I believe."
Buffy let Phelps into the office, sitting down on the couch. "We've agreed that he won't try to hurt the kids," she said, tapping a stake on her leg. "Giles is in the library and Nick's trying to break in to where the boys are."
Philip walked into the office. "Ah, Phelps, someone had told me you were here." He shook the demons' hand, waving at the couch, frowning at Buffy until she moved so he could sit too. "Tell me he didn't make ya the temporary butler." The demon nodded, morphing back into his usual form, puke-green with bulbous scales and glowing fluorescent blue eyes.
"All I really wanted was to go back to Hell," he said. "I thought you guys could do that."
"Oh, we can," Barbara said. "Willy knows some people down there personally." Derek glared at her.
"Gee, we could call my ex," Buffy said quietly. "I'm sure the souled one would know a way back since he got out of there once."
"You *are* her," Phelps said in awe. "Yes, please call Angel. I was told to come here to talk to him."
Derek looked up a number, frowning at them the whole time. "Wesley," he said cheerfully. "How are you?" He nodded. "No, we have someone who was sent here to talk to your associate?" He handed the phone off to Phelps, motioning everyone else out. "We'll let them handle this," he told Buffy. "Tell Giles and Nick to relax."
"What if he can't get back in there," she asked. "We can't leave them trapped with the kids."
"No, but I would guess his powers are on the blink," Giles said, walking back toward them. "His kind need to go back to their power origin to recharge every century or so. It's probably a misfire of his powers."
Phelps walked out, straightening out his jacket. "Thank you."
"Not so fast," Buffy said, catching his arm. "How do we release the room?" He gave her a pitiful look around his bulging scales. "You can't," she guessed, her voice void of emotion. He nodded. "Then how do we break it?"
Derek grabbed her arm, making her let go of the demon. "We'll find a way to get them out of there. Trust me, I don't want those children locked in there more than you do." He looked at the former butler. "Do you have a way down there?" He nodded, going down the hall.
"It was nice to have met you," Barbara called. She looked at her son. "A nice example of his kind."
Derek just shook his head. "Yes, he was, mother, but we cannot harbor him here." He stared to lead them back into his office but couldn't get through the open doors. "Never mind, Rupert, let's find a cure, shall we?" He led the way to the library.
The dark haired young man looked up as the redhead walked up to him, sitting across from him. "What's going on?" he asked, his British accent fainter now. "You don't usually come back to torment me."
Richie Ryan smiled, looking around. "Hey, being a messenger isn't all that bad. You need to call your 'cousin' in London. He's got you a way into the Legacy." He leaned back, grinning.
Adam glared at the dead man. "How? I don't trust that look."
"They need a butler." The other man snorted, going back to mashing his ice cream. "One slayer seven months from her twenty-fifth birthday, one Watcher - their kind instead of ours -, six children, two young men used to helping the Slayer and Watcher, and a former Priest. Oh, and Derek Rayne. And you wouldn't even have to lie. Especially when your recent student came down." He tapped the table a few times and was gone.
Adam pulled out his cell phone. "Reggie," he asked, sounding happy though he was scowling. "Heard through the grapevine that you were looking for me?" He leaned back in his chair, shaking his head then holding the pounding portion of his flesh. "Why?" He nodded. "Fine, on a short term basis maybe." He hung up, getting up and tossing his ice cream out as he headed for the nearest library, muttering the whole way about family ties not only binding but choking you.
Derek looked at the man across the desk from him. "You do come highly recommended," he said, putting down the resume. "Did anyone tell you that we do have children in this house or what we do?"
"Actually, I know more than you think," Adam said smoothly. Reginald had told him to tell him about his 'special condition' as he called it, as did the angelic messenger he had been sent if in a round-about way. He pulled a knife out of his pocket, slicing his hand, showing the cut as it bled and healed. "I'd say I was prepared for more than you think."
"Ah, I thought as much," Derek said happily. "My sight went off when I shook your hand. Methos if I'm right." The other man simply stared at him. "Oh, please, some of us have knowledge available to us back that far. Why do you want to work here? I'm sure you could do many things, including teach from what I've heard."
"You have double agents in the Watcher's Council, don't you?" he asked sourly. Derek nodded, still smiling. "I don't, but my proclaimed cousin Reginald said I should at least try it until you can find someone else." He leaned forward. "Make no mistake, Doctor Rayne, I'm not here to help you, only myself. Same as I was the last time I entered your organization."
"Just so long as you can take your non-disclosure vow seriously." Adam nodded. "Goot, then we'll consider you temporary help. I do ask that you give me some warning before you take off though, this house falls apart without someone managing it and even though our workload has slacked off, we're still inordinately busy."
"Just tell me I'm not responsible for the children," he said in disgust. Derek shook his head. "Good, then may I see the premises?" His host/boss got up, leading him out of the room.
Timmy looked up from his coloring as his grandfather and some other guy walked in. "I color card," he said, holding it up.
"I see that, Timmy, who's it for?" Derek asked, kissing the top of his head.
"For sissy. She no feel good. She have bad bellies."
"Ah, I see, is she on the couch or in bed?"
"She in bed but no napping. She say she too big so daddy upstairs with her while the other kids go play in garden." He looked at this new person. "Who you?"
"I'm Adam, I'll be taking Dominic's place." The baby started to cry, putting his head down on his picture.
"Shhh," Derek said, sitting down and pulling him onto his lap. "I know you miss him. We all do. He was a very nice and very goot man and I know he loved you a lot." The baby looked up at him, wiping his eyes. "I'm sure he'd not want you to be sad though. Even if he was your favorite person in the house except William."
"Why did his rubber band hafta snap?" Timmy sniffled, clinging to the white dress shirt, wiping his nose on his grandfather's tie.
"Daddies say that what happened. The rubber band in his head broked." He looked up at his mentor. "Why him?"
"I don't know," Derek said, hugging him tighter. "I'm sure it wasn't any of our faults. It was just his time to go on to the higher plane Jonathan told you about." He kissed the light red hair, tipping the child's head up to make him look at him. "Yes, you should be sad but as long as you remember him he'll live on in your mind. All the wondrous things he taught you will still be with you." He wiped the tear tracks off, setting Tim back into his chair. "Now, finish your card for your sister then we'll all go up with you."
Xander walked down the back stairs, carrying his daughter. "I don't think so. She just said she felt a pop and was suddenly better." He looked at the strange man. "Who're you?"
"Ah, I can see the resemblance now," Adam said. "I'm the new housekeeper until Derek can find a replacement."
"Do you mind kids, cooking lessons, tons of dirty laundry, and you're not a demon right?" Xander asked. Adam shook his head with a small smile. "Good. Dad, we've got to take her to the emergency room, I'm sure it's her appendix."
"Rubber band?" Timmy asked in a whisper.
"No honey, this is in her belly. Off on your right side." He set Xandra on the table, pointing to the spot. "There." Timmy nodded, handing his sister the card. "Oh, that's pretty. An elephant?"
"Yup," Timmy said, just a little happier now. "Me go?"
"Sure, but go find Nick, right now, because he needs to fly us." He looked at the man again. "Sorry about doing this on your first day. Um, my husband's in the garden with the nanny and the kids. Buffy and Alex are having a girl's moment out tonight at a local club/strip bar. Giles and Nick were doing something with Philip.
Nick walked back in. "Well, they were playing chess, I was going to play the winner. What's up?" He tweaked Xandra's nose. "Your belly get worse?" She nodded, smiling at him.
"Her appendix I think," Xander said. "She said it hurt, like some pressure, then she felt a pop and now there's no more pain."
"Yes, that'd be her appendix," Adam said. Everyone looked at him. "Mine came out a few years back," he explained with a smooth lie, "but getting it out soon is the best thing. I'll go find her father if you'd like."
"Please," Xander called, picking his daughter up and carrying her out after Nick and Derek.
Oz rushed over as he saw them leaving. "Hospital?" he asked, kissing his mate then his child. "I'm going." He patted the baby carrier. "I'm sure we can handle it."
"Diaper bag?" Xander asked.
"Token, wallet, can get everything else there." He walked beside his mate, letting him get into the chopper first. "Who was that?" he asked.
"New butler. Adam was what Derek mouthed to me, along with a later."
Oz looked up as Nick handed him the cup of coffee. "Thanks man." He drank it slowly, watching his husband cuddle their child against his chest. He had escaped into the bathroom to feed him just a few minutes ago so now they were both sleepy. "She'll be fine," he told himself. "Xander had the same thing happen." Derek patted his hand. "It's taking an awfully long time to take that out."
"It's just a bit messy when it's burst," Derek told him. "Relax, she's in goot hands here."
They all came to their feet as the nurse in scrubs walked up to them. "She's fine, it was her appendix. Actually, it only burst part way, almost ulcerated, so we got it early." She smiled, touching the baby's cheek. "We'll be taking her to recovery soon and then up to her room. Her father can go in." Both Xander and Oz stepped forward and she shook her head. "One of you, the biological or adoptive one only. Hospital rules."
"I'm the biological one but he has medical permission too. We're both adoptive actually," Oz said, frowning. "That's his child though. She'd want to see him."
The nurse looked around. "Okay, let him go until she wakes up then you can come in for the other fifteen minutes she'll be in there to make sure she's fine." She led Xander down the hall, waiting while he walked back and handed Oz Junior and stole a quick kiss.
"Just until she wakes up then you can come in," he promised. Oz smiled and nodded, turning him around. "Thanks."
Oz sat down next to Derek again, leaning against his arm. "He's the right one, she'd want to see him first."
"You'll see her in an hour," Nick said, taking the baby and curling up in his corner seat with him. "Hey, Kiddo, what's up?" he asked, smiling down at him.
"Got to get you guys some of your own," Oz groused affectionately.
Xander smiled down at his daughter as she yawned, blinking at him. "Hey, princess," he said quietly. "How's your belly?" She grinned, holding up her arms for a hug. "Yes, love you." He kissed her cheek, pulling back. "Want me to go get your other daddy?" She nodded, trying to sit up. "No, stay down. You can sit up later and get pretty for him." He kissed her head again, walking past the nurse. "She's awake," he said happily. She just smiled at him. "Oz," he said, bouncing out to sit next to his husband. "She wants you now." He stole a deep, thorough kiss. "Go be with the baby," he whispered, taking his spot cuddling his own daddy.
By the time Oz walked in, Xandra was telling the nurse checking her all about the pony she wanted. He kissed her forehead. "No, we told you no pony," he said.
"But I sick, I 'serve pony," she said, nodding. "Me *need* pony, daddy." The nurse started to giggle, walking out before it could get worse. "See, she agree me."
Oz nodded. "We'll see, princess."
Xander snuck up behind Buffy and hugged her. "Our baby's fine," he said. She whapped his arm. "What?" he said, rubbing it with a hurt look on his face.
"I have a sinus headache," she muttered. "Too close." She sniffed in deeply. "Where's the kids?"
"Derek said to warn you and Alex since you both have head...." His voice trailed off. "Please tell me you didn't pull a Willow."
She patted the side of his face. "Not like she did but I'll be talking to you later. It was more of a mutual like thing." She sipped her juice. "And it's still my sinuses. Slayer healing takes care of hangovers too." She smiled at the kids being carried in. "Asleep? Want me to take one?"
Oz shook his head. "Sit, you look bad." He sat himself and Junior at the table, watching as Derek and Nick carried the other two upstairs, they had demanded the right to put them to bed. "We're all okay, they got it before it really burst." She nodded, sitting down across from him. "Are you all right or do we have to have a 'why are you becoming Willow' talk?" he asked quietly, taking her hand to hold her still. "I don't want you to fall into that trap."
"I won't, promise," she said. "It was just me and Alex." She shrugged. "I've been having some doubts and thoughts and now I understand why." She finished her juice as Xander hugged her shoulders and kissed her head. "Hey, get off. Kiss him. Don't want icky boy lips on me." She shuddered. "You have gross Y-chromosome germs that infect women and do things to us."
Xander just patted the back of Buffy's head. "I understand fully. Then you realize that you really do like both and that all lips are kinda okay if there's something deeper behind them."
Buffy nodded. "I know. I'm just not wanting your icky boy lips on me." She grinned as he punched her arm.
"Careful," Giles said as he walked in. "She might consider you a tissue." He stole the baby off the table, continuing on his way up to the nursery.
"Does that bother you?" Buffy asked. Xander shook his head, grinning. "No?"
"No, I know it's because they care, not because they think we can't handle them. And we go do the same thing to them when they've go the kids so it's all okay." He looked her over. "But you're not. To bed with you, young lady. Now, before I have Oz spank you while I tickle you."
Buffy chuckled, standing up to grab some more juice then walked out of the kitchen to go lay down.
"You're still bi?" Oz asked quietly, tapping his fingers on the table.
"I can appreciate the other sex. I may not want them because I have you but I appreciate both sides." He caught one of the tapping hands. "Hon, I love you, but I played the straight guy for almost twenty years. I am still bi. Same as you are." Oz shook his head. "Tell me you haven't found Buffy cute in her workout clothes." Oz's shoulders slumped. "I'm not mad. It's just a realization that we still love both sides of the fence but the grass is greener under our tree house."
"Is that because we piss off the side?" Oz asked, a devilish little twinkle coming into his eyes.
"Yup, sometimes." Xander leaned over, kissing Oz's cheek. "But then we remember to throw rose petals down too."
"Oh, stop it," Adam said as he walked in from the back porch. "That's disgusting."
"Yay," Xander said coldly. "Accept it and us or don't watch." He stood up, staring the new butler down. "Your choice."
Adam looked him over. "Not what I was expecting at all," he said. "Congratulations. Now take it out of my kitchen." He walked to the double sinks, putting the herbs he'd picked down to rinse them.
Oz grabbed Xander, pulling him down onto his lap. "I love when you defend me but don't do it again. I'm more than able to defend us both." He nipped his husband's chin. "Now be a good boy and go do your reports. I'm sure dad would love to see them."
"And it'll make him leave the kids alone," Xander noted, standing up, pulling his husband with him. "I meant it, Adam. Accept who we are and what we have or talk with Derek soon." He and Oz walked out, wrapped around each other as only they could.
Adam smiled after them. "Very good. A pleasant change." He went back to rinsing the herbs for dinner.
Giles knocked on Jonathan's door, opening it when no one answered. He could hear the music inside but his knock must not have been heard. He stopped when he saw what the young nanny was reading, his face going pale. He walked over, taking it from him and tossing the Chronicle across the room and grabbing the other man. "You will tell me why the Watcher's Council is here," he said, oozing anger. "Or I will rip out your throat."
Jonathan swallowed as best he could around the arm on his throat. "Let me go and I will," he croaked. Giles stepped back a full yard, looking icily down at him. "I'm one of the new founding members, man, easy." He sat up, looking at the door. "Shut it and I'll tell you everything. We were going to ask you for your help rewriting the codes anyway." He watched the former Watcher as he shut the door and pulled over a chair. "Yes, we're reforming but on the principles you started with Buffy. We realize we're needed, that the Legacy can't do it all by themselves, so a few of the younger Watchers, some that fought with you if not that day, have gotten together to start reforming under the next Slayer. We want to go on your principles, the lack of isolation, the techniques you created to deal with modern life, something those bastards had forgotten existed." He smiled gently. "I mean you guys no harm, I came to study how you did it. The children are a joy in my life and I want to stay with them but I need to have your help if we're going to be able to make a go of it."
Giles was still frowning. "You're here much too late to study how I did it."
"Not really. I know Flame will be here when she comes into her power, or just in town, but I did expect to come to you soon to ask for your help. Once we had a rough outline of the codes really." Jonathan smiled gently, pushing back the newly-bleached hair off his face. "Rupert, we never wanted to infer that we were sneaking around behind the backs of you and the others that fought, this was directly opposite of that. Many of us are studying under some of the other Watchers who fought. But we need *your* help. You're the revolutionary."
"I'll consider it," Giles said stiffly. "I do wish you hadn't hid this for the last three years."
"If I had come to you that first week, what would you have done?"
"I would have had you removed from the children," Giles admitted, relaxing some. "But still..."
"I know, I know this is tearing you up right now. Just consider the offer. We don't want to steal you, we want your help in the formation process so the one after Flame has a steady foundation of both tradition and modernity to fall back on. That seems to be important in today's world." Jonathan winced as Oz slowly pushed his door open. "Oz," he started.
"Save it. You and I, and Derek and Giles will all be talking soon." He turned, starting to walk away then came back. "Why are you here? The kids or him?"
"Oz, I was asked to come take care of the kids. They're my life, man. If I had to choose between those children and the Watcher's, they'd win. Hands down favorite. I'm more than ready to dedicate my life to their happiness, but the *new* Watcher's Council has to have a guiding force or else we'll turn into the same people that just left office."
"Were you waiting?"
"No, I came out here to watch from afar, trying to see how to get an in and meet with Rupert and all of you. I'd given up hope after the first six months here when I couldn't find a way in. Precious, the elder version, knew I was special but not why. She and Savannah made it real clear that I was to be here only for the kids. I *jumped* at the chance, guys. Even before Savannah got off the island I was here. Those kids are as much mine now as they are yours, Oz, and I don't want to give them up."
"Why would you?" Xander asked, walking up the stairs. "You're not thinking about leaving, right?"
"No, I'm part of the new Watcher's Council." Xander nodded. "You knew?"
"Yeah, I got an email questionnaire from someone in London who was studying us to help them." He shrugged. "I told them what I could after I checked with Dad." He looked at Giles, seeing his hurt look. "Derek and I both thought they had gotten in touch with you."
"No, I was going to wait until after the party, when the powers around the island quit shifting. We want his help to rewrite the codes to train by. We don't want him back and we doubted him having a favorable reaction if he heard an offer to come back, but we really only want the flexible minds. He may be a revolutionary for the just cause but he's *way* older than the average one of us right now."
"I'd like to talk to you in more depth, when I've calmed down." Giles stood up, looking down at the nanny. "I need some time to consider what you've said."
"Hey, take your time, you have seven months before the switch happens and another week before Flame gets here probably."
"Flame?" Xander asked, leaning against the other side of the doorway. "She's the next one?"
Jonathan nodded. "Yeah, a few of us got together and figured out where it was going. She's being trained right now up north. Nice little kid, very hardy. But she's not being trained by one of us, she's under the other Watchers Council's thumb." Giles looked confused. "Go ask Derek about them. They actually watch the normal immortals. And they have the Codex for her too."
Giles sighed, shaking his head as he walked past the two younger men but he didn't get far before Xander, hugging monster that he turned into since being tamed by Oz, turned him around, wrapping him in his strong arms and holding onto him. "I'm fine," Giles whispered. "Just need a bit of personal space." He looked down into the brown eyes that had fascinated him when the owner used to turn them on his to learn from him. "I'll deal with this and we'll be fine."
Xander shook his head. "You can't go," he said. He steered him toward the spare bedroom on the floor, opening the door, smiling at his touches still in there. "Come on, you need to be pampered and we should do it," he explained, pushing him into the bathroom and starting hot water into the claw-foot, cast iron tub. He poured in a little bit of oil he found, inhaling deeply as the scent filled the room. "There, comfy," he said, looking at his mentor. "Get undressed. Now, don't make me do it for you, I promise you won't like it."
Giles smiled, undressing quickly and heading down into the soft, soothing water. He leaned his head back on the pillow that was placed for him, closing his eyes and simply breathing in the scents around him. "Thank you, Xander, I always knew I could count on you to help me think through things."
"Well, they're going to do it anyway," he said, sitting on the floor so he couldn't look down at the older man's body, "but they could use your help. After all, they'll mess it up without you. They'll put in iron clad rules when they need flexible ones and they'll make all Slayers alike again." He looked at the doorway as Oz cleared his throat. "Doing some anti-fuzzying of logic." He patted the floor beside him. "Want to help?" His mate sat down beside Giles' head, looking at his mate. "I was thinking he should do it because it'll be good to have the real flexible rules in there. Things like Slayers deserve to have fun too."
Oz nodded. "I can see that but you can't force him to do it."
"Not trying to, just trying to give him good reasons."
"Rule number three should be all Slayers are individuals and require a great deal of inventiveness and understanding of who they were before they were called," Oz told him.
Derek cleared his throat. "What's going on?" he asked, walking in. "Rupert, Jonathan just came to me with the most amazing tale and asked for Nick's and my help. Did you know something about this?"
"Not until today," Giles said, opening one eye to look up at his old friend. "Xander decided I needed to de-stress for a few moments to enable me to think." He started to move but Xander and Oz held him in place. "Boys, really. This is rather unseemly."
"Why? I'm not lusting here and neither is my baby." Xander tipped his head, his stud shining in the dim light. "You're fine, we're just babying you so quiet and think." He turned to look at his father. "Out you unless you have something useful to add. You're making him anti-happy again."
"I think we should all sit down and discuss how and what to do. I had known that they were planning on restarting it but not so soon." Derek leaned against the door. "How about we do so in the morning, before we have that meeting with Buffy?" The other men all nodded. "Goot. And I agree with my sons, Rupert, relax." He turned, walking away.
"See, dad agrees with me. And my baby taught me that baths are comforting things that help you think."
"Are you feeling insecure again?" Oz asked quietly.
Xander leaned forward, clutching his husband's hand. "Not about you. Never again about you unless I can't stop myself." His husband nodded. "I'm still insecure that part of my family is going to leave."
Giles sighed, closing his eyes again. "Xander, do you know how we find the girls?"
"No, but I heard it was a mark."
"Yes, a birthmark, a mole actually, on the girl's shoulder." He turned his head to look at him. "Just like the one your child carries."
"Junior has one too," Oz said quietly, "same place."
"Yes, well, that's a different prophecy." He pointed at the scar on his shoulder. "Much as mine was. He'll end up being a Watcher I'm afraid."
"He could join the Legacy," Xander said, moving to hug his husband. "Not Xandra," he whispered.
"No, hers is on the wrong side."
"Precious?" Oz asked. Giles nodded. "Hell!"
Buffy stuck her head in, looking at them. "What happened?"
"Um, Giles just mentioned that Precious has a certain birthmark," Xander explained. She nodded. "No offense but I don't want my daughter to do you job."
"Hey, I know, and with luck, you won't have to. She'd have to be in the right age range to be called, right?"
"Not quite. She would be called but the powers would never manifest if she was too old."
"And she'd die," Oz finished flatly.
"There have been a few cases of girls being called at an extremely young age and surviving it," Giles told them all.
Oz looked at Buffy. "We're going to have a long discussion tomorrow." She nodded, walking out. "So, now what?"
"Jonathan has undoubtedly seen the marking. He must know what it means."
"So he's been helping form her into the best Slayer she can be?" Xander asked quietly. Giles nodded. "Okay, we'll talk with him about it tomorrow, maybe get Nick to start working with her." Oz pulled away from him. "Hey, I don't like it either but we're going to have to start earlier with her, she's got the extra abilities and all this other stuff coming, she needs to be prepared."
"Most usually, the girls had been taken from their families early in their lives, around the age of eight, to start training them."
"Yeah, but she could be training and not know it."
"Self-defense for babies?" Oz asked. When he saw the nod he sighed, relaxing back into his mate's arms. "I'm still in the denial stage, we'll work on the planning when I get to acceptance." His mate simply squeezed him. "What about the others?"
"I believe they'll have their own paths, very individual ones as far as I can see. Junior's path is nowhere near set, boys, and he'll be able to buck tradition a bit, but he'll eventually end up dealing with the job." Giles sank farther down into the water. "I'm sorry, I had hoped to spare you of this for a few more years yet. I have the prophecies downstairs if you'd care to look at them, I had them pulled so we could explain things to you."
"No, it's better this way," Oz told him, patting the arm resting on the side of the tub. "This way we can prepare her better. Xan's right about that, we should start early. Her other skills will make her formidable but weaker since she'll have to concentrate."
"Gee, she's the Scooby gang and Slayer all together," Xander said quietly. "I'm going to go get a hug. Later." He got up, walking out.
"This is hard for him to deal with," Oz said quietly. "Just the thought of her leaving..." He stopped, hopping up and running after his husband, hugging both of them when he found them. "We'll be fine," he said.
"I'm fine, daddies," Precious said patiently. "No boo-boos or anything."
Jonathan looked at the little group as he came back up the stairs. "Guys, she's going to be my charge, don't worry about it," he said quietly, walking back into his room.
"When were you going to tell us?" Oz asked loudly.
Jonathan walked back out, sitting beside them on the floor. "When the time was right if you hadn't figured it out. Derek doesn't know either but I was going tell him this year, get her started soon on the control she'll need." He patted the baby's hair. "We'll be okay, there are six others around her age."
"So she may not be called?"
"No, there's always more than we need in case of emergencies." Jonathan patted Xander's arm. "Don't worry so much, we've got it covered and I'm working out the way for her. We'll do it and she'll never know." He stood back up, heading for his room again. "You guys are scaring her, ease up."
Precious looked up from her cuddling. "Me no scared," she scoffed, "me cuddled." She tugged on her other daddy's arm until he was pressed tightly against her back. "Me san'wich," she said happily.
"Yeah, you are," Oz said, kissing the back of her head. "A big Precious sandwich." He and Xander shared a look, both letting her go. "Now go find Auntie Buffy, she's downstairs somewhere and her head hurts. Make her feel better before the party tonight." The little girl bounced down the stairs, humming happily to herself as her daddies got up to head into their room.
"How?" Xander asked from his position on his husband's chest.
"We work it out so she has everything she needs. That'll mean some extra lessons but we were considering home schooling anyway." He looked up as Adam cleared his throat from the door. "What? We're having a private discussion."
"Yes, and Jonathan thought there were some things you should know." He walked in, closing the door. "I could help train her, as I did one of the other girls." He saw the confused look. "No, I'm not a Watcher, I was a civilian trainer. Between the two Watchers, the former Seal, and myself she'll be fine and have a well rounded education."
"Why would you do that?"
"Because she's a nice child and those should never have to go do battle. It changes them, no matter how old they are." He pulled his hands from his pockets. "Some of us are very special anyway and none of us want to see her be called but it may be necessary, and if it is, we'd want her to do as well as the blonde downstairs has."
"Why does everyone know who she is?" Xander asked his husband.
"Because she's been real high profile if you look in the right places." Oz turned back to the butler. "Is that why you're here?"
"No, an angelic messenger told me to come." He smiled sadly and walked out, closing the door behind him.
"Okay, this is strange," Oz said, nodding. He looked down at his husband. "Kiss me, make me forget that happened?"
"Sure, until you're ready to remember," Xander whispered, gently kissing his mate.
"We will be talking in the morning," Xander told his father as he did his bow tie, "and there will be no more secrets in our family." He looked up into the amused dark eyes. "I mean it. No more, ever. You will not keep secrets from us again." Derek kissed his forehead. "Gee thanks," he said dryly, "but I meant it. If there are secrets then we're all going to end up losing. And if you *really* want Oz to take your place, then you'll just have to deal and tell him."
Derek wrapped an arm around his son's shoulders as they headed down to the main floor for the reception. "I understand the sentiment but why did you come to his conclusion now?"
"Because we just found out Precious is going to be called someday and Junior will one day be Giles." Xander looked at his father as he stopped. "Yeah, so no more secrets. Ever." He tapped his fingers on his hips. "Coming?"
"In a minute, I need to talk to Rupert."
"He'll be downstairs. Come on, we have to go make people feel at home so we can all celebrate Grandma's marriage to the fussy one and then the guests can leave."
Derek smiled at that. "Do continue to call him Grandfather, son, I'm sure he hates it with a passion."
"Oh, he does, but have you noticed he doesn't call you son anymore."
"For which I am eminently grateful." They walked down the main stairs together, smiling and nodding at the early people as they walked past them. Buffy whistled in appreciation so they headed over to where she was, both men flanking her. "Buffy," Derek said gently, "how's your head?"
"Precious gave me many head rubs so I'm fine," she said, still stuffy-sounding. "Just a cold, relax, boss." She smiled at Alex as she walked over to them. "Gee, if we're all here, then won't the others feel left out?"
Alex smiled and patted the bare arm. "Yes, but we'll break it up in a minute. Guys, you look good, as usual. And that dress is one I do believe we got you," Alex said, holding Buffy at arm's length to look her over. "But you still look rotten. You could go to bed if you wanted to."
"I'll escape later if my head doesn't clear." She sniffed loudly, pulling a handkerchief from her evening bag. "Better?" she asked.
"No, go to bed," Derek said, turning her around and walking her toward the stairs. "I'll send the children up to give you kisses later and I'll make sure Adam feeds you."
Buffy shook her head, walking up the stairs anyway. "Yes sir."
Alex took Derek's arm, looking around for Xander. "And where has the son gone?"
"I think he went to stop Brandon from climbing on some woman." He smiled down at her. "You look nice."
"Thank you, kind sir." She started to walk through the crowd of people, greeting them with short words and small nods. "Are we?"
"Alex, you sound like my children in their private conversations. Are we what?"
She pinched his arm. "Are we announcing?"
"Not unless it comes up." He nodded a man he vaguely knew. "Did you want to?"
"Someone's asked me already and I told her this was for your mother and her new husband."
Derek spun her around, onto the edge of the dance floor set up in the foyer since the side door was being used for guests. "We'll see," he said with a charming smile. He took her into his arms, moving off with her.
Xander and Oz watched Derek and Alex discuss things on the floor, arms linked as they stood next to a wall. "Want to?"
"Maybe later," Oz countered. "After the kids are in bed." He grabbed one of them as he raced past. "Tim, we discussed this. No running."
"Xanny chase me," he said.
Xander simply looked at Xandra and she stopped running. "Thank you." He looked down at his son. "Timothy Daniel, if you start to run in this house again tonight I will personally put you to bed early. Do we have a clear understanding?" The little boy pouted. "Don't even try it. Do it again and be grounded tomorrow and go to bed early." The baby nodded so his other father let him go.
"Yes sir. Me go tell others." He took his sister's arm, walking to where he knew the other kids were getting a story from Grandma in the library.
Oz smiled up at his husband. "Gee, you're good."
"Yup, every day. Come on, want to dance with you." He pulled his mate out onto the floor, grinning as he let him lead. "Your turn I believe."
"Okay, if you insist." Oz started them off around the room, gently holding his husband to his body.
"Boys," Derek said as he danced up next to him, "none of what you do when you go out please."
"Us?" they asked innocently.
"Yes, you," Alex said, pinching her step-son's cheek. "Behave or you'll be grounded too. No cuddling at meals for a week."
"Ouch," Oz complained. "That's way harsh." He checked the distance between their bodies. "We're not even that close."
"Ah, but I know you two," Derek said, dancing his wife away.
Xander looked down at his mate, taking the lead from him. "We're not going to do something to embarrass him, he's just worried about what the fussy one will say."
"How is your grandfather anyway?"
"Oh, fine, he'll be here in an hour." He spun them off the floor, heading out to the balcony to get some air, and stopping Precious from climbing up onto the concrete railing. "He had a sudden work overflow so he left about two hours later than expected." He looked at his daughter. "You know better."
"Bran drop my dolly."
Adam walked out, wiggling his finger to make her come to him. "It's in the dryer, one of the security guards got it for you." He handed her a glass, a real glass, of milk.
"Hey, she gets plastic, no matter how bad they look," Oz said. "She tends to break them otherwise." Adam simply smiled, leading her away, watching her the whole time.
Xander shrugged. "He seems comfy here. Maybe Dad'll keep him on full time."
"What's up with him anyway?"
"Not a clue man, not a single one," Nick said as he walked out carrying Brandon. "I think you need to have a talk with this one."
Xander turned around. "No, for what he's already done, he's going to go to bed as soon as the announcement has been made and he's grounded tomorrow." Nick frowned at him. "We know he dropped Precious' doll off the balcony, he probably talked Xandra into chasing Timmy, and I know you just caught him doing something."
"Climbing up the library shelves to grab a particular book."
"So why is our son doing this?" Oz asked the little kid.
"Because I need 'tension. Somefing bad happen and me need to be seen instead." Oz shook his head. "Pwease?"
"No," Xander said slowly, "but if you tell us what's going to happen then we could stop it."
"No, me no tell. Ask sissy." Brandon crossed his arms, glaring at his father. "You no know so me no tell you."
Derek walked out, taking Brandon from Nick's arms. "Did you see the big storm too?" The baby nodded. "Did your sister broadcast again?" He nodded, grinning. "Is she okay?"
"Gran'ma cuddle her." He leaned closer to his grandfather's ear. "She drop glass again."
"I'm sure she did," Derek said, setting him down. "Don't worry about it, we'll deal with it. Now go be goot." Brandon nodded, trudging out. He turned to his sons. "Both Alex and I saw something too. We'll just have to deal with it."
Xander frowned. "He's still grounded and going to bed early. He could have told us instead of acting up." He smiled as Adam walked out with Junior. "Stealing him now?"
"Just from Buffy. She had him in her room and she was sneezing on him." He handed the baby off with a great amount of distaste showing on his face.
"Adam, do not go out into the garden later," Derek said cryptically, walking back inside.
Adam looked at his back then at the couple since Nick had left after Derek. "Why?"
"They 'saw' something. Not a clue as to what though."
Adam nodded calmly. "That would be fine. I'll do my best to stay inside." He walked back into the main house, leaving them alone.
Oz stole Junior, looking at his nice, clean clothes. "Aren't you cute," he said softly, brushing some unruly hair down. "Very pretty. Auntie Buffy must have dressed you."
Xander grinned. "Most likely. Last time I saw him he was in just a diaper in the cradle." He opened the door so Oz could precede him. "Maybe we should get the carrier...." He stopped as Adam handed it to him as he walked past with a tray of drinks. "Gee, efficient." He strapped it on, getting some help to finish hitching it after their son was in it.
Alex and William smiled as they walked up to him. "Ah, I see the youngest Harris wanted to join the party also."
"Adam found Buffy sneezing on him so he brought him down." Oz smiled up at Alex. "So, when can we ..." She shook her head. "No?"
"No, dear, not from my body."
Barbara 'tsk'ed as she walked up to them. "Why not dear? You're young and beautiful, I'm sure any children by you would be most welcome in this family, even if they do look like my son." She smiled, turning on the young couple. "May I?"
"No," Oz said. "You can do it later when he gets heavy." He smiled sweetly. "Now if you'll excuse us, my babies and I want to go dance some more."
William just stared after them, shaking his head.
Derek tapped on the edge of his glass to gain everyone's attention. "I'd like to announce the reason for this event, my mother's recent marriage." He waved the happy couple up beside him. "My mother, Barbara Rayne, has decided to take one of my colleagues and civilize him," he said with a small smile, getting a small laugh from the crowd, "so I'd like to introduce the happy couple, Barbara and William Sloan."
Everyone clapped but one voice from the back rang out. "Derek, what about your own nuptials," some woman called.
Derek choked on his champagne, waving Alex forward. "Yes, Alex Moreau and I were married in a secret ceremony in Las Vegas recently but why waste a goot party with family gossip." He smiled and everyone laughed, breaking up to go back to the party.
Alex accepted the thanks she got with good graces, smiling at each of Derek's ex-girlfriends. By the time she was done, her hand hurt and Derek had escaped to somewhere else. "Oh, I will get you, Derek," she muttered, smiling as she walked out to go find him. "Dear," she said sweetly as she walked up behind him on the balcony. "You left." She wound her hand around his arm, digging her nails in. "Your ex's all wanted to congratulate you."
He smiled down at her. "I'm sure. I'm sorry, Alex," he said, kissing her forehead. "I wanted to spare you from that."
"Nah, it's all good," Oz said as he walked out, now wearing the baby carrier. "Way jealous ex's, dad."
Derek smiled at him, lifting an arm so he could curl up under it and get a hug. "I know. That's why I'm out here."
"Hey, mine," Xander said as he walked out. Oz just smiled at him, opening his arms to hug his husband. "Thanks, babe." He looked up at the man he considered his father. "Dad, some people wanted to know if you were 'claiming' me or not." He shrugged. "Whatever that means."
"Yes, I am. As far as I'm concerned, you're my son." He finished off his glass of wine, going back inside. "Come, my lovely vision of unhappiness, let us go feed the rumor mill some more."
"Just so long as no one says I'm pregnant," Alex said as they walked away.
Xander looked down at Oz. "What do you think's going to happen?"
"Oh, remember when they hunted you because they thought you and Derek were together? Well, now they have better gossip and they'll still hunt all of us down to get even more."
"Daddy, us go to bed," Precious asked, yawning, as she walked out to join them. "Jonathan say it time."
"Sure," Oz said, looking down. "Want both of us or just me?"
"You come. Daddy stay and look cute." She grinned up at him. "Besides, you have baby."
"Very true," Oz said, taking her hand and following her out.
Xander walked back into the main room, giving each one a hug before they left to go to bed, kissing the top of Brandon's head. "We'll talk in the morning," he told him quietly. The baby left, heading up after the other ones.
William and Barbara walked up behind him, smiling. "I see they all went without a fuss," he said.
"More or less," Xander agreed. "But we told them earlier that they'd be going at a normal hour so they weren't too cranky. No more interesting things to see anyway." He kissed his grandmother's cheek. "May I dance with you?"
"Of course you may, dear." She let him lead her out onto the improvised floor, flowing smoothly with him as he led.
Xander walked by the guest entrance and stopped. He swore he could hear a timid knock. He walked over, opening it. "Ray," he said, pulling him inside. He looked at the wet body. "Come on, up to my room to get you out of those clothes." He looked at the bundle of blankets. "Benny?"
"Yeah, I need ta talk ta ya," he said quietly, shivering.
"Later, after you're dry and warm." He led him up the servant's stairs so no one would see them, heading up to the room he and Oz shared. "Jonathan?" he called softly. The nanny came out of his room. "Here, put him in something dry and warm, I'm going to take care of his father." The nanny took the baby while Xander drug the older man into his room. "Go shower and I'll bring you some clothes. We're almost the same size." He pushed him into the bathroom, opening the closet to consider the choices it contained.
It was half an hour later when they reappeared downstairs, Ray dressed in a simple suit and tie, hair done since he had borrowed some of Oz's gel. Xander led him through the room, smiling at everyone until they made it to the knot of people around Derek and Alex. He cleared his throat, getting his father's attention. "Benny's upstairs," he said simply, pulling Ray against his side.
"Goot," Derek said, holding out a hand. "Detective, thank you for coming." He waited until they were alone to actually talk to him. "Are you all right?" he asked as the last person left.
"Fine, mostly anyway. Well, okay, a lot scared but we're physically fine." He shuddered. "Can we talk?"
"In the morning," Derek said gently. "There are extra rooms up by the boys', and you may stay up there for a while. I'm sure the baby is in the nursery with the others." Xander nodded. "Thank you, now let's go somewhere more private." He walked them down to his office, frowning at his mother and William kissing in his chair. "You know that's traumatic for your children, correct?" he asked, letting Ray in. "Mother, this is the new father I told you about. Marigold was his half-sister."
Barbara got off her husband's lap, hugging him tightly. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. "If you need me, I'll be here for another three days." She brushed over the side of his face. "Willy, come," she said.
Xander stopped William on the way out. "Hurt her and die," he warned.
William nodded, smiling, as he walked past.
Derek smiled at his son. "That's the spirit but I'm sure I'd rather send him back to Hell instead."
"Hey, if he suffers." Xander led Ray over to the chairs in front of the desk. "Now, what brought you here? You were soaking and I'm almost sure you walked."
"We did," the detective agreed. "Wasn't raining until we got to the gates though." He looked up at Derek. "I don't mean to intrude but something's following me and it's not a person-type person. I could have dealt with that, but this guy just appears and disappears." He shuddered. "I didn't know what else to do."
"Relax, Ray, you're where you need to be," Derek told him. "We deal with strange things every day."
"Yeah, I kinda noticed," he said with the first grin he'd had in days. "I can stay?"
"Of course. Would you like to call your Lieutenant? I'm sure he'd like to know that you weren't really missing."
"I called my partner from the airport. He knows where I was heading, and only him, but not why."
"Call your boss," Xander said softly, "we won't let anyone take or harm either of you." He picked up the phone, handing it to him. "We'll leave if you want us to."
"Nah," he said, gripping the younger man's arm tightly. "Please don't." He dialed quickly. "Hi, me," he said. "No, I'm running away. Yeah, becausa that. Yay, so suspend me. I'd rather not be eaten or hurt or whatever." He hung up. "He's not real believing of strange things." He slumped. "Maybe I am imagining things."
"No, probably not," Xander said. "Many things are only seen by a few people." He pried the fingers off his arm. "I'll put him in my old safe room." He helped him up, walking them up the main staircase. "You'll like it, real dark, kinda fuzzy." He smiled as he met Brandon on the stairs. "Aren't you supposed to be in bed?"
"Baby try, Jonafan say come get you." He ran back up them, hands and feet on the stairs.
"Damn, I forgot his bottle."
"Hey, we'll be fine. It's not like we don't have plenty of them." Xander led him back up to their wing. "Jon?"
Oz walked out. "He's in the kitchen warming one up. Bottle warmer broke earlier tonight." He smiled at Ray. "Good ta see ya man," he said, handing him the baby, who quit crying. "Seems you're doing okay." He nodded toward their room and Xander nodded. "Night. I'll be up for a while if you need me."
Xander opened the room that he used to escape to when things got too rough, letting Ray inside first. "This'll be yours until you're ready to go." He took the bottle from the nanny. "You going to go get another warmer or do we need to?"
"You go, I'm keeping the kids in tomorrow."
"Okay." He waited until the nanny was gone to close the door and hand over the bottle. "No worries, Ray, just relax. We're all happy people here."
The detective smile. "So I can tell." He looked down at himself. "I'll get it cleaned..."
"Nope, stop. Don't worry about it. I'll send over some of our other not real used stuff later so you have something else to wear tomorrow." He touched the baby's head. "Just relax and calm down. We'll talk in the morning." He walked out, closing the door softly, smiling at Serena. "What's up?" he asked.
"That is the other baby's father. His name's Ray."
"'Tay. He good boy?"
"Yes, dear, he's a Detective, a police officer. He's a very good man."
"'Tay, me go sweep now." She yawned, heading back to the nursery.
Xander walked into his room, pulling off his bow tie as he closed the door. "He's all set for the night. I said we'd send him over some clothes." He kissed the top of his husband's head, watching him write in his Legacy journal. "What's up?" he asked, hugging him.
"Saw something really amazing earlier and I needed to think it through."
"Saw Adam in the garden from the nursery window." Oz turned around, looking up at his husband. "Fighting with a sword, killing someone, then being hit by lightening." His husband's brow wrinkled in his thinking-about-something way. "I don't know what to do."
"We'll be talking to Derek in the morning anyway. Did the body dust or something?"
"Yeah, it burned and dusted in about a second once the lightening stopped." He wrapped his arms around the other man's waist. "That was way strange."
"But look at what we've seen."
"Point." Oz looked up into the deep brown eyes. "Do you think he's dangerous?"
"I think if he was, Derek's sight would have went off." He leaned down to kiss the slightly older man. "Want you in me," he whispered. "Now."
"Go get ready for me."
"Am, was waiting for you to do me on the balcony," Xander said with a small grin. "Come on." He undid the buttons on his shirt slowly, tempting his husband to take him hard. By the time he had his shirt peeled off, his mate was laying on his side on the bed, watching him. "Liking?"
"Very much but hurry up or I'm going to rip them off you."
"Hmm, hard and animal, I kinda like that from you." Xander undid the hook that held his pants closed, unzipping the zipper slowly with a few pulls back up.
"Xan," Oz warned.
"Aw, come on, I can tease, right?"
"No, now get over here."
Xander stepped out of his pants and slid his bikini underwear down, handing them to his husband so he could read them, grinning at his smile of enjoyment of the words. "See, I was just playing."
"No more playing," Oz said, pulling Xander down on top of him, spreading his cheeks to check him. "Naughty you, cleaned and lubed while we had to go play nice with the uptight people." He slid the plug out, helping his husband down onto him by holding his waist. "What should I do to you?"
"Um, f...do me hard."
"Thank you for not saying that word." Oz pulled his mate off in mid-stroke, tossing him down onto the bed so he could pound into him. "I'm so liking you like this," he whispered as he slid back in, driving forward. "So very liking you."
"More," Xander grunted, pushing back. "No more words. Words bad." He smiled and gripped the headboard, pushing back against his mate as he thrust into his body. "Yes, this, more," he panted.
"Ah, so sweet to turn you brainless."
"No talk!" Xander said, sitting up, pushing Oz backwards and riding his lap. "No talk!" He bounced up and down, all thoughts of subtlety and mutual pleasure forgotten.
Oz let him get off, waiting his turn out. "Better?" Xander nodded, falling back onto the mattress. "Needed me that bad?" Xander smiled over his shoulder at him, spreading his legs a little. "Ah, my debauched kitten." He slammed back in, riding him hard. "So very tight, even after all the times I've been in you." He closed his eyes, working himself off, ignoring Xander's renewed erection totally.
"Yeah, Oz, fuck me!" Xander said, closing his eyes at the good feelings he was having.
Oz winced, pulling out and walked into the bathroom, slamming the door.
"I'm sorry," Xander said, walking after him, his erection gone. He knocked lightly. "I'm sorry, babe, it just slipped out." He heard the lock move so tried the handle, frowning at the locked state. "Oz, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say it. It just slipped out." He rested his head against the cool wood, closing his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.
Oz paced around the inside of the small bathroom, eyes closed. "Why can't he just forget that word?" he muttered. "I've asked him not to say it, even told him it bothered me." He ignored the pleas from the other side of the door. "I don't know what to do, I don't want to tell him but I'm going to have to eventually, he'll make me tell him or it'll slip." He leaned against the shower doors, closing his eyes as the nausea started. "I'll talk with him once I've calmed down," he promised. "Just not yet." He sat down on the floor, arms across his up-raised knees, head on his arms. "Why couldn't he just respect that one little thing?"
He stopped to listen to the words from the other side of the door, wincing at the defeated sound they were taking on. "I'll talk to him in a minute when I'm calm again," he promised himself. "I learned the non-talking lesson quite well, thank you." He turned around to look at the door. "Why couldn't you have respected that rule?" he asked again. "I don't make many. I'm not mean. I just never wanted to hear that word again, all those times as a kid was enough."
"I'm sorry," Xander said again, something thumping against the door, probably his head.
Oz waited until it was quiet in the bedroom to walk back out, looking at the man curled up in the bed from the safety of the doorway.
"Come to bed," Xander offered, holding up the sheets. He didn't look at the slightly older man, didn't say anything else, just stayed curled up on one side of the mattress. He did slump when his husband got into bed with him.
"I don't think I could do more than cuddle," Oz said quietly, curling around his mate. "I'm sorry I acted like that, I just can't stand that word."
"I know, it just slipped." Xander's eyes stayed closed and his body stayed in its little huddle, not relaxing into the warmth behind him. "I'm sorry."
"I know, we'll work it out in the morning." He clapped and the lights all went off. "Night, babe."
It was about an hour later of not sleeping that Oz tried to pull the stiff body back against his so he could fall asleep but it remained hard and rigid. "I'm sorry I left like that."
"It was my fault. Sleep," Xander mumbled, pretending to have been asleep.
"I can't, you aren't being snuggly."
"Don't feel like it."
"Why are you punishing me?"
"Not, Oz," Xander flipped over, not looking at his husband's face at all. "This is all my bad here. You shouldn't suffer. Let me flip over so you can nap on me." He rolled onto his back once his mate moved some, staying still and frozen for the fifteen minutes he was used as a pillow.
"Damn it, talk to me," Oz said finally, sitting up and turning the lights back on with a clap. "What is wrong?"
"I'm sorry," Xander started again, but a warm hand covered his mouth.
"And I forgive you, babe, now sleep with me. We both need it."
"Because I can't!" Xander said sliding out of the bed and pacing in front of the bed. "I hurt you, mentally only but still. I can't stand the thought that I hurt you. It hurts me worse to think that I'm turning into my parents." He dodged the hands trying to capture him. "I didn't mean it but it still happened and no matter how sorry I am, I'm becoming a sorry person."
"Xan, bed," Oz ordered softly. "You didn't mean to hurt me, that's the difference between you and your parents. It was a slip, we'll deal and move on."
"Yeah, well I'm sure they didn't mean it all the time either but it still happened."
"Want to talk?" The younger man shook his head. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I just have to think this through, make sure I'm not turning into them." He stopped pacing and looked at his husband. "I'm going to go down for a snack, want anything?"
"Only you back in this bed so I can sleep," Oz said dryly. "Preferably now instead of at dawn."
"Boys," Nick said, knocking on the door. "Quiet. Sound still carries through the heat registers."
"Then buy ear plugs!" Oz called. He looked back at his husband, patting the mattress. "Come here, I need you. You didn't hurt me."
Xander shook his head, walking out of their bedroom and down to the kitchen. He was pulling out the ice cream when he felt the presence behind him. "Go away, I'm snacking."
"So I can see," Adam said. "Would you like to tell me why?" He shut the door after Xander backed out with the box he wanted. "Or are you just going to sulk."
"Adam, do you know the meaning of the phrase 'nosy fuck'?" The young-seeming man nodded, still smiling. "Good, you've become one. Go back to bed." Xander dished himself out a large bowl of ice cream, taking it onto the back porch and sitting on the swing to eat it, watching the mists flow as he thought.
Derek looked at his sons, sighing. "What happened this time?" he asked gently, looking at their unusual posture of not cuddling. They were actually on different ends of the couch. "Tell me what it was."
"I slipped and said the one word that Oz had asked me not to say," Xander said, taking the lollipop out of his mouth. He's been eating almost constantly lately while he thought.
"And I said it was okay, just don't slip again," Oz said again, for what seemed like the thousandth time in three days. "Get over it, I have."
"Can't," Xander said simply. "Can you block me from saying it, Dad?"
Derek leaned back in his chair. "I can put a stronger compulsion to not say it in your mind but otherwise, not really." He looked at the formerly cooing couple. "What was it?"
"Not important," Oz said quickly. "Xan, it's all right, you shouldn't be this upset over it. I'm not, not anymore."
"Yeah, but I can't not be. I *hurt* him, dad, I'm no better than my parents."
"You're not your parents," Derek said gently. "I could never care for you if you were. Nor would I allow you near your children if you were becoming like them." He smiled slightly at the youngest man. "Xander, you need to relax about it. If Oz says it's fine then I'm sure it is now."
"No it's not. I can't."
"Can't?" Oz asked, looking down his husband's body. He leaned over, tugging gently on the post in his ear, something that usually sent him rocketing into hardness. "Damn, Xan, babe, I didn't mean to be that harsh. It's just a thing for me."
"Yeah, but every time I think about sex with you, the picture of what your face must have looked like flashes across my mind and I can't keep it up. So I need Dad to block the word."
"No, you need help," Oz said, going back to his corner of the couch.
"I know," Xander said quietly. "More than you think I do." He looked at his father. "Can you?"
"Yes, readily, but I'm not sure it will cure this problem."
"It won't," Oz said. "This is his guilt." He took the token out of his pocket, handing it to him. "Here, maybe this'll help you." He watched his mate look at it then toss it across the room at the large glass mirror behind the bar. "Hey, we need that."
"No, we only need that if we're going to be okay. I'm not okay so we don't need that."
Derek got up, walking over to retrieve it, looking at the gold token, studying what it said after he killed the illusion on it. "A Fate's token," he said softly, sitting back down in his chair. "No wonder." He looked up at the boys, tossing it back to Xander. "It's one of the coins the Fates used to decide things for people, namely luck for that one."
"Well, getting it in Vegas makes sense then," Oz said dryly. He looked at the token, now devoid of illusion. "No wonder we won."
"I don't want it," Xander said. "Luck is nice but I'd rather be happy than rich." He tossed it back to his father. "You can put it somewhere."
Oz looked from the token to his mate. "We can be both."
"Have we been?"
Oz's mouth open and closed then he shook his head. "No, I haven't. Not as happy as before we got it. Put it down in the cavern, dad, but make a nice display of it so we don't offend Fate. We don't need the money." He took his mate's hand. "I love him and he's all the wealth I need, him and my family." Xander smiled at him, blinking back a single tear. "And you, my love, will listen while I talk about why I don't like that word soon. I'll even try not to leave you hanging like that again."
"It went down when you shut the door," Xander admitted quietly. "Hurting you was the worst pain I've been in, even all the times I was in the hospital." He looked from his mate to his father. "Okay, lets go throw that in the water." He stood up, making Oz miss his cheek and fall over, and took the coin from his father's hand. "Come on, Oz, no more kissing leather for you right now. You can do that later." He took his mate's hand, walking out of the house and through the garden, heading down to the part of the jogging trail that was nearest to the bluffs then walking through the dense trees. "Luck, we thank you for this gift, but we prefer happiness over the blessing of money." He kissed the token, handing it to Oz to throw.
"I...we thank you for helping us all those times but it's not for us. We'd rather be poor and have each other than rich and be alone." He changed it to the hand they were holding, and they both tossed it into the air, watching as the sun glinted off it and it disappeared in thin air. Oz turned to his mate, pulling his head down to kiss him. "I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I should have seen it, figured out why we had all those fights."
"Shh, babe, we're fine. I'm still going to let Derek put in an inhibition to that word though."
"Don't, babe, make me see it's not a bad word. No more messing in your pretty head. I don't think we need it and I don't want you radically changing to some other Xander." They kissed again, Oz moving closer to his husband's body, feeling the first hint of hardness in three days. "Wow, much better," he whispered.
Someone giggled so the couple turned around, looking at their daughter Serena. "Yes," Xander asked, grinning. "You wanted something?"
"Just to tell you to no make more babies." She went back to where the other kids were helping to gather leaves.
"We've got to talk to them," Xander muttered, wrapping Oz around himself as they started to walk over to where the kids were.
Xander looked at the report Derek had filled out about Ray, frowning. If his intuition was right, he knew that the only way to cure it would be to bring that one person there. He dialed information. "Hello, I need the number for the main branch of the Canadian Mounties?" He smiled as he leaned back in the comfortable desk chair. "Yes, them. The main one, one that could get a message to a post." He turned to look out the window. "Yes, thank you." He tapped his fingers as he watched Nick pick weeds to take out his frustration with Buffy. "Hi, this is Xander Harris with the Luna Foundation in San Francisco and I need to get a message to one of your officers? No, a Benton Fraser, a Constable." He nodded. "Cool. No, actually one of our people here is one of his friends and he's been having a problem related to something that happened when they were working together so needs to talk to him. Yes, that would be fine. No, I'll be waiting. Thank you." He hung up, smiling.
It was about ten minutes later when the phone rang. "Luna Foundation," he said as he picked it up. "Yes, Constable, hold on, let me get him. No, it's Stanley actually. Let me put you on hold for a second." He hit the hold button then the intercom button. "Ray, can you come to the office please?" He stood up, waving at the chair as the other man walked in, waving at it. "Call, it's the blinking one." He quickly walked out of the office, going to hide. He smiled at his father as he passed. "He'll be showing up," he said cryptically.
"Hello?" Ray said slowly. "Benny? No, man," he sighed, glaring at the door. "Yeah, well, this weird guy keeps popping up near me and asking about you and I didn't know what to tell him besides nothin' ya know. Oh, and I'd like it if you could come to my son's christening. No, my half-sister did but she died." He leaned back in the chair, smiling. "No, I named him after you. Ray was kinda upset that his name isn't in there but I told him if I ever had another one he'd be Raymond." He twisted the cord around his finger. "Yeah, dark suit, real sharky and lawyerish. Do ya know him?" He turned to look out the window. "No, I'm in 'Frisco right now. They gave me Benny Junior so I came to them when I needed some help." He hung up. "Thanks man." He looked at the door again. "I will get you for this, Xander," he promised. "And whoever you are, you may not hurt Benny, either of them."
TO BE CONTINUED...